Alone among Democrats, Sinema stays silent on GOP Supreme Court push

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., waves as she departs after the impeachment acquittal of President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020 in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., waves as she departs after the impeachment acquittal of President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020 in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Almost every Senate Democrat has come out against President Trump’s plan to rush through a replacement for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, saying the nomination should wait until after the looming elections.

Every Senate Democrat but one – Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.

While other Democrats were using language like “shameful,” “brazen hypocrisy,” “horrible precedent” and “theft” of a Supreme Court seat in what they called a power grab, Sinema has only commented on Ginsburg’s legacy after the justice’s death Sept. 18.

Political analysts said Sinema’s silence is not surprising given her carefully cultivated image as bipartisan and moderate.

“If you’re going to be a Democrat that wins in a traditionally red state, you’re not going to be a super-progressive liberal democrat, you’re probably going to be more moderate,” said Frank Gonzalez, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona School of Government and Public Policy.

He said Sinema is a politician who wants to be viewed as an “independent thinker,” a posture echoed by Garrett Bess, vice president of government relations at the Heritage Foundation.

“I think it tracks with sort of her … quasi maverick-type record,” Bess said.

But it did not sit well with some progressive Democrats in Arizona.

“This is going to affect the country for another 30, 40 years,” said Signa Oliver, co-lead for Desert Progressives Indivisible. “Open your mouth.

“Those of us that knocked on doors for her to get her elected, have been very disappointed several times with her inability to, you know, step forward and represent the Democratic Party principles that we elected her to do,” Oliver said.

Sinema’s office did not respond to requests for comment on her position – or lack thereof – leaving her weekend tweet expressing “gratitude and service to our country” as her only comments on Ginsburg and the court vacancy she left behind.

Within hours of Ginsburg’s death last Friday, by contrast, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement promising a Senate vote on Ginsburg’s replacement.

“We pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary,” McConnell’s statement said. “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

Most Republicans, including Arizona Sen. Martha McSally, rushed to agree with McConnell. But Democrats were livid.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court, meets with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, not pictured, at the Capitol, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020 in Washington. (Stefani Reynolds/Pool via AP)
Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, meets with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, not pictured, at the Capitol, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020 in Washington. (Stefani Reynolds/Pool via AP)

Trump announced Sept. 25 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amy Cooney Barrett as his nominee.

Democrats have repeatedly brought up McConnell’s refusal in 2016 to even grant a hearing to President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, because it was an election year. McConnell, who delayed action for almost the entire year, said then that voters should have a say in who makes the choice.

“Unfortunately, Sen. McConnell has decided to go against Justice Ginsburg’s dying wishes and is cementing a shameful legacy of brazen hypocrisy,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, said in a tweet the night of Ginsburg’s death. “The right thing to do here is clear, and Senate Republicans know it. We should let voters decide. Period.”

Even moderate Democrats jumped to criticize McConnell and the White House for rushing to fill the seat, an appointment that could give conservatives an unassailable 6-3 majority on the court.

“The American people deserve to choose the president who will fill this vacancy,” said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the co-chair of the Moderate Democrats Working Group. “I will oppose any Supreme Court nominee until after Inauguration Day, and I will do everything I can to fight for fairness.”

Oliver said Sinema needs to speak up.

“They stole Merrick Garland’s seat, and you’re going to be silent or possibly vote with them to give them another seat? That’s unacceptable,” she said.

But political experts say it is not surprising that Sinema is in no rush to be grouped in with the Democratic establishment.

In her 2018 campaign for Senate, Sinema ran as a middle-of-the-road independent. Since taking office she has voted in line with the Trump administration 26.3% of the time, toward the upper end of the votes by moderate Democrats, according to a FiveThirtyEight vote tracker.

But that is not necessarily a liability for Arizona politicians, analysts said, invoking the late Republican Sen. John McCain who was often at odds with his party.

Voters in Arizona do not seem to be as bound by national party ideology as voters in other states, said Samara Klar, an associate professor at the University of Arizona School of Government and Public Policy.

While she and others said they would be surprised if Sinema voted for Trump’s nominee, Klar said Sinema is probably making a safe bet by not coming out against a Republican nominee now.

“The safer play for Arizona politicians generally is to try to straddle the middle as much as they can given how voters here see themselves,” Klar said.

Gonzalez said that taking a hard stance against Senate Republicans now would not be “worth the risk of giving a Republican challenger a talking point in four years” when Sinema will be up for re-election.

And by taking her time and hearing how Arizonans are feeling about the process before making a statement, Sinema is also reinforcing her brand, Bess said.

“The advantage for holding back a statement is to continue showing that she is willing to listen, willing to hear,” Bess said.

But Oliver said the people Sinema should be listening to are “the people that put her in office” or they will find someone else to support.

“If she does the wrong thing on this important issue, I will never knock on another door, I will not have another petition signed for her, I won’t do anything else for her,” Oliver said.


Arizona Chamber seeks to lower tuition for ‘Dreamers’

Arizona Chamber of Commerce President Glenn Hamer outside the Rayburn House Office Building. Hamer and other business officials from the state were in Washington to lobby the Arizona congressinoal delegation on immigration reform. (Cronkite News Service photo by Pei Li)
Arizona Chamber of Commerce President Glenn Hamer outside the Rayburn House Office Building. Hamer and other business officials from the state were in Washington to lobby the Arizona congressinoal delegation on immigration reform. (Cronkite News Service photo by Pei Li)

The head of a major business organization is looking for legal ways to make education more affordable for “dreamers” who attend state universities and community colleges in Arizona.

And while Glenn Hamer hopes for some state or federal legislative action, that goal ultimately could mean asking voters to rethink a law on who gets – and does not get – in-state tuition they approved in 2006.

The president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry said Thursday he thinks there may be some wiggle room in enforcing that law which says those not in the country legally have to pay more than the tuition available to other Arizona residents.

Hamer said that law is based on the idea that Arizona taxpayers should not be subsidizing those who have entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas. But he believes there is a way to legislatively determine that there is some rate – less than full out-of-state tuition – that complies with the law.

There is already some precedent for that. The Arizona Board of Regents has a policy saying those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program can attend at a tuition of 150 percent of what is charged to residents.

But that rate can still add $6,000 a year on to a student’s bill. And Hamer said he believes that legally can be driven lower.

Ideally, Hamer said, the whole problem would be resolved if Congress were to deal with the issue and formally declare that DACA recipients are in this country legally.

At this point, DACA exists only because of an executive order signed by Barack Obama when he was president.

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled unanimously last year that does not make those in the program eligible for in-state tuition, no matter their residency status. If Congress acts, then the court ruling becomes legally moot.

But Hamer also has a back-up plan of sorts if the tuition for DACA recipients cannot be legally tweaked and Congress fails to act: Take the issue back to Arizona voters.

The idea of restricting access to in-state tuition was approved in 2006 by a margin of more than 70 percent in favor. But Hamer said things are far different now.

“I could certainly make the argument that, way back when, we were not thinking about dreamers,” he said.

In fact, DACA did not even exist at that time. It was only in 2012 when Obama decided that those who came here as children and met other qualifications could not only remain without fear of deportation but also be allowed to work.

“I believe the average age of a dreamer in terms of the entrance into the United States was 6 years old,” he said, meaning they were not making a conscious decision to violate federal immigration law. “They’re going where their parents are taking them.”

Hamer said multiple polls have shown popular support for providing a permanent solution, including possibly a path to citizenship, for the more than 800,000 who have been accepted into the program nationally, including more than 23,000 in Arizona.

And he said that there already is a basis for resolving the issue: a grand compromise that would give President Trump the $5 billion he wants for a border wall in exchange for legalizing not only DACA recipients but also others who are in this country illegally.

But, failing federal resolution, Hamer said it’s in the interest of the state – and the business community he represents – to create the maximum opportunity for DACA recipients in Arizona to have a higher education, and one that is affordable. And that, he said, cold ultimately require revisiting that 2006 law.

That raises problems of its own.

The most immediate is that the 2006 law, having been approved on the ballot, is subject to the Voter Protection Act. That constitutional provision bars lawmakers from repealing or making major changes to anything that voters have approved. Instead, these have to go back to voters.

“The Voter Protection Act is certainly a challenge,” Hamer said.

Then there’s the fact that any alteration or repeal would go on the 2020 ballot at the same time that Trump is up for reelection. That raises the possibility that border security could be a major campaign issue.

That’s why a frustrated Hamer said his organization is hoping to get it resolved in Washington.

“I don’t think it’s too much to ask Congress to do its job once every 30 years,” he said.

But Hamer said the issue is far too important to Arizona to have it live or die based on what Congress does or does not do. If nothing else, he said, it’s good for business.

“We’re now in an economy where there’s more jobs open than human beings to fill them,” Hamer said. “We need workers of all skill levels.

And Hamer figures that if college graduates earn an average of $1 million more over a lifetime versus those with just a high school diploma, that’s money they’re going to be spending.

“That’s good for everyone,” he said.

Hamer also pointed out Arizona has a goal of having 60 percent of its students get some sort of postsecondary certificate or degree by 2030

“Starting with increasing opportunities for the DACA population seems like a pretty good way to make some progress,” Hamer said.

AZ GOP helps take control of U.S. House

Rep.-elect Eli Crane, R-Ariz., center, and his wife Jen Crane, right, arrive with newly-elected members of the House of Rep.-elect Eli Crane, R-Ariz., center, and his wife Jen Crane, right, arrive with newly elected members of the House of Representatives at the Capitol for an orientation program, in Washington on Nov. 14. Crane’s win over incumbent Democrat Rep. Tom O’Halleran in the 2nd Congressional District, and Republican Juan Ciscomani’s win over Democrat Kirsten Engel in the 6th Congressional District, gave Republicans control of the state’s congressional delegation, 6-3 and helped to tip the scales in the GOP’s favor in the U.S. House. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Republicans took control of Arizona’s formerly Democrat-led congressional delegation this week, contributing to flipping the U.S. House of Representatives.

Republican Juan Ciscomani won his race against Democrat Kirsten Engel in the 6th Congressional District, and Democrat incumbent Tom O’Halleran lost his 2nd Congressional District race to Republican newcomer Eli Crane.

With Ciscomani and Crane’s wins, Republicans went from controlling four of Arizona’s nine House seats to six. After a close race in the 1st Congressional District, the other Arizona Republican representatives all kept their seats.

President Joe Biden has a low approval rating and is associated with skyrocketing inflation rates. Republicans hoped this dissatisfaction would garner support for a “red wave,” but were ultimately not as successful as they hoped to be. Their largest victory was in the United States House where Democrats currently have a small majority with 220 representatives.

As of November 16, Republicans secured the 218 seats they needed to control the House. Democrats had 211 seats, and races for six seats were still undecided.

Republicans took control of Arizona’s formerly Democrat-led congressional delegation this week, contributing to flipping the U.S. House of Representatives.

Republican Juan Ciscomani won his race against Democrat Kirsten Engel in the 6th Congressional District, and Democrat incumbent Tom O’Halleran lost his 2nd Congressional District race to Republican newcomer Eli Crane.

With Ciscomani and Crane’s wins, Republicans went from controlling four of Arizona’s nine House seats to six. After a close race in the 1st Congressional District, the other Arizona Republican representatives all kept their seats.

Rep.-elect Michael Lawler, R-N.Y., left, and Juan Ciscomani, Republican candidate in Arizona’s 6th Congressional District, walk on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

President Joe Biden has a low approval rating and is associated with skyrocketing inflation rates. Republicans hoped this dissatisfaction would garner support for a “red wave,” but were ultimately not as successful as they hoped to be. Their largest victory was in the United States House where Democrats currently have a small majority with 220 representatives.

As of November 16, Republicans secured the 218 seats they needed to control the House. Democrats had 211 seats, and races for six seats were still undecided.

With control of the chamber, Republicans could stymy Biden’s and congressional Democrats’ agenda.

Republican consultant Daniel Scarpinato said of the new House majority, “Given how slim the majority will be, it remains to be seen how significant it truly will be. It is historically close, and in that respect, it will be a political science experience worth watching very closely. Given the divisions within the Republican Party, whether there is a ‘governing’ majority is unclear.”

Scarpinato works on Ciscomani’s campaign.

Arizona 5th Congressional District Rep. Andy Biggs made a bid for speaker of the House, but lost in a landslide to Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who is the current minority leader. The vote was 218-30 for McCarthy.

The success of McCarthy and Ciscomani echoes a trend in this year’s elections where “establishment” Republicans were far and away more successful than Republicans endorsed by former President Donald Trump in the general election, even though the opposite was largely true in the primaries.

Republican Differences

Ciscomani was the only Arizona Republican congressional candidate in the general election who did not seek or receive Trump’s endorsement. Ciscomani is a former member of Gov. Doug Ducey’s cabinet who did not deny the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election or push for abortion bans.

Andy Biggs

Biggs is the opposite candidate. “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander testified that he was in communication with Biggs before the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives Rusty Bowers testified to the January 6 House committee that Biggs called him on January 6 and asked him to sign a letter calling for the decertification of the election results. Biggs’ brothers William and David wrote to The Arizona Republic calling for Biggs’ removal from office, claiming that he was at least partly responsible for the attack.

Biggs denies any involvement in planning the attack on the U.S. Capitol, but he did ask for a presidential pardon for his involvement and denied the results of the 2020 election. He was endorsed early on by Trump and does not support limits on abortion bans. He also opposes same-sex marriage and said he doesn’t believe in climate change. These are views that “establishment” Republcains like Ciscomani are leaning away from.

Although Biggs was not drawn into a “competitive” district, he still got the narrowest win since he first became a congressman. He won with 56.7% of the vote over an independent and a candidate who didn’t accept any donations. Biggs raised $1,916,882 to Democrat challenger Javier Garcia Ramos’s $15,243.

Senate a Priority

In the midyear election, Democrats put most of their energy into the U.S. Senate race and left House candidates out of major events.

The Senate race and governor’s race were pushed heavily by the Arizona Democratic Party. Former President Barack Obama headlined a rally on November 3 to stir up support for the Democrat ticket. All but one of the statewide race candidates and Kelly spoke. Kelly spoke the longest apart from Obama and was praised most by the former president.

Obama, Biden, Kelly, Masters, election, ballots, results, Trump
Former President Barack Obama speaks at a Democratic rally in Phoenix on Nov. 2. U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly made a rare appearance with other Democratic candidates at that event when Obama was here to stump for the Democratic slate. (AP Photo/Alberto Mariani)

Democrats Jevin Hodge and Kirsten Engel ran in the most competitive congressional districts and did not speak. O’Halleran and fellow Democratic incumbent Greg Stanton also ran in semi-competitive districts and did not speak. None of the four Democrats were talked up by the other speakers either.

“It was disappointing. I wish he was able to speak. I think he could have made a difference,” Democrat consultant Steven Slugocki said of Hodge’s omission from the Obama lineup.

Democrat House candidates were left out of other events, like a panel with Planned Parenthood representatives on the importance of Democrats in elections where Hobbs, Mayes and Democratic Party Chair Raquel Terán, D-Phoenix, spoke.

Democrats across the country spent millions on Arizona’s congressional races, but it wasn’t enough.

New District Boundaries

Part of the Republicans’ success is attributable to redistricting. The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission drew Arizona’s nine new congressional districts in December of last year. Democrats accused the commission of stacking the 7th Congressional District with Republicans to make the 6th Congressional District harder for Democrats to win.

Most of CD6 was represented by Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, who did not run for re-election.

David Mehl, a Republican member of the redistricting commission, pushed for CD7’s line to move far east, keeping blue Tucson and the University of Arizona together in a single Democratic district. Mehl’s son donated to Ciscomani’s campaign and Ciscomani’s wife Laura Ciscomani nominated Mehl to the commission. Mehl denied accusations that he was making decisions in Ciscomani’s favor and disgruntled Democrats didn’t get their way. The district ended up highly competitive and leaning slightly to the right.

Tom O’Halleran

The Democrats’ second blow was the loss of CD2. O’Halleran was ousted by Trump-endorsee Crane after O’Halleran was drawn into a red district. Crane was ahead with 53.9% of the vote as of November 16.

The new CD2 was less competitive than CD6 and labeled “outside of competitive range.” In 2020, voters in the new CD2 voted 53.6% Republican and 46.4% Democrat, which was nearly identical to the election’s vote spread.

Incumbent Republican Rep. David Schweikert struggled to keep his seat but pulled through after the lead went back and forth a few times. Schweikert was endorsed by Trump late in the game, less than two months before the August primary election.

Trump and Schweikert kept one another at arm’s length and didn’t appear alongside one another this year. Schweikert voted to certify the results of the 2020 election on January 6, 2021.

Schweikert was convicted for 11 House ethics violations and was sued in the primary campaign for running an ad against fellow Republican Elijah Norton with the caption “Elijah Norton isn’t being straight with you” over an image of Elijah Norton with his arm around another man. As of November 16, Schweikert was ahead with just 50.4% of the vote.

Democratic consultant Slugocki said of CD1, “I’m very confident that this is going to be one of the most important districts in 2024 because of how close it was. He [Hodge] may not have got there this time, but we will in two years.”

Kelly’s Senate campaign was hugely emphasized by Democrats for the entire campaign season. Senators are more powerful because there are only 100 compared to the House’s 435 members, but apart from that Slugocki said he doesn’t know why the House races were not a priority of the Democratic Party.


Brnovich re-elected despite expensive attacks from clean energy group

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Attorney General Mark Brnovich easily defeated Democratic rival January Contreras Tuesday, but his victory speech on Election Day made it seem like the real victory was against progressive billionaire Tom Steyer.

An onslaught of attack ads from the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona campaign against Brnovich did not have their desired effect as he beat Contreras by more than 6 percentage points.

The clean energy campaign spent more than $3.6 million on television ads calling Brnovich “corrupt” and alleging the attorney general has a cozy relationship with Arizona Public Service — Arizona’s largest utility company and the chief opponent to Proposition 127.

Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona was backed by Steyer, a California progressive who may seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.

Brnovich had strong words for the California billionaire, closing out his speech with, “kiss my ass, Tom Steyer.”

But Brnovich made numerous digs at Steyer throughout his speech. His campaign party, located in the courtyard just outside the hotel where the Arizona GOP was having its Election Night watch party, even had a dunk tank where people could be dunked wearing Steyer masks.

“My mother can now watch ‘The Price is Right’ again,” Brnovich said. “She stopped watching because a California billionaire spent $6 million attacking me and my family.”

The pro-Prop. 127 group started spending against Brnovich when they discovered his office changed ballot language for the measure that would mandate that most electric utilities get at least 50 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2030.

Brnovich defended the language changes and in turn, sued the clean energy campaign for defamation over their attack ads against him.

In the attorney general’s race, Brnovich faced Contreras, a former assistant attorney general and adviser to former Gov. Janet Napolitano. While Contreras hit the campaign trail hard, the two candidates were unevenly matched when it came to name recognition.

Contreras outraised her opponent and picked up endorsements from Democratic heavyweights like former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden, but it wasn’t enough to catapult her to victory.

Brnovich’s long term political path could take him beyond the Attorney General’s Office. Political pundits often list Brnovich as someone who could be a top contender for the Governor’s Office in 2022 when Gov. Doug Ducey, who is overwhelmingly leading his race, is termed out.

Attorney General race by the numbers
Early votes  

*Mark Brnovich:  53 percent

January Contreras: 47 percent

* Denotes incumbent

Former undocumented immigrants turned lawmakers want ‘Dreamers’ to speak out

Rep. Cesar Chavez, D-Phoenix, sings with a mariachi band in front of the Arizona Senate in February 2017. (Photo by Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times)
Rep. Cesar Chavez, D-Phoenix, sings with a mariachi band in front of the Arizona Senate in February 2017. (Photo by Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times)

Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, considers herself “pretty American,” a good neighbor and an engaged citizen.

She came to the United States from Mexico on a visa as a 6-year-old and was undocumented until she was 16, when she became a legal permanent resident, which allowed her to go to college and gain access to financial aid.

Her fellow House Democrat, Cesar Chavez, of Phoenix, came to the United States from Mexico when he was 3-years-old in 1991.

“I don’t remember coming to this country. I don’t remember crossing the desert with my mother,” he said.

The two formerly undocumented state lawmakers want “Dreamers” to keep making their voices heard and telling their stories as Congress wrestles with how to address Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

DACA was created via an executive order from former President Barack Obama in 2012 to protect young undocumented immigrants raised in the U.S. from deportation. The so-called Dreamers were granted two-year protective terms that could be renewed.

The Trump administration announced on September 5 that it would phase out the DACA program, but gave Congress six months to find a legislative solution.

As of press time, President Trump and Democratic leaders were discussing a potential deal on DACA. While Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer said on September 13 there was an agreement with Trump to save DACA coupled with border security, but without a border wall, Trump said that wasn’t true. But he did say he supports Dreamers staying in the U.S.

The September 5 announcement struck close to the hearts of the two freshmen lawmakers.

Chavez said he would have qualified to be covered by DACA. Instead, he was able to become a legal permanent resident and then a naturalized citizen under immigration policies during the Reagan and Clinton administrations.

Congress should come up with a permanent fix to allow Dreamers to live here and have a pathway to citizenship, he said. But there’s always the potential that a debate over DACA becomes a political game, with border security tied into the welfare of 800,000 young adults, he said.

Still, he’s optimistic that a DACA fix will come through. Emotions are understandably high – the hopes and dreams of 28,000 Arizonans are being toyed with, he said. But Dreamers have the ability to bring humanity into the debate by telling their stories, Chavez said.

“Everything’s on the table, and when you have everything on the table, you have nothing to lose,” Chavez said. “Speak out.”

While Chavez acknowledges he can’t do much to affect federal immigration policy as a state lawmaker, he said the state can work to make people feel more welcome. Lawsuits like the one filed by Attorney General Mark Brnovich over Dreamers’ tuition at state universities aren’t helping, he said.

“Arizona can be welcoming. Arizona is diverse. It’s just a matter of releasing the noise, releasing the negative rhetoric and allowing it to be the beauty of a state it is,” Chavez said.

The DACA debate in Arizona isn’t strictly partisan. After the Trump administration’s announcement, Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake both said ending DACA was wrong. And the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, typically aligned with Republicans here, spoke out strongly against ending DACA.

“Does anyone feel safer now that the attorney general has announced the removal of legal protections for 800,000 students and participants in the US economy?” chamber president Glenn Hamer said in a statement.

Rep. Isela Blanc (D-Tempe)
Rep. Isela Blanc (D-Tempe)

Blanc said it’s not only DACA ending that troubles her. Many families, like Blanc’s, have people with mixed immigration statuses. There are 11 million people in the U.S. without documents, she noted, so it’s tough to disconnect the DACA discussion from immigration as a whole.

“We’re too busy demonizing people who pick our lettuce so we can have a fancy meal at a restaurant,” she said.

She wonders if DACA recipients will be used as pawns by politicians who could give up on helping the broader population of undocumented immigrants. At this point, there are more questions and concerns than there are answers for her. But every day is critical as the six-month timeline ticks onward, she said.

“Every day you have 800,000 people that don’t know what their future holds,” Blanc said. “And these are young Americans that have always known America, this place, to be their home. The only thing they lack is paper to show they were born here.”

She has been telling Dreamers to organize, and she’s found them ready to have their voices heard by those in power. They’re having important conversations with their school boards and elected leaders and making it clear they expect to be protected, she said.

Blanc has talked to a lot of high school students who want to take action – “at a time when you’re supposed to be worrying about that pimple you just got before a dance, and instead they’re worrying about the future of America,” she said.

The next couple months will be critical for DACA, she said.

“I’m hopeful in people’s ability to be empathetic and sympathetic and see the humanitarian crisis that we are on the verge of creating,” Blanc said. “I am hopeful. Yes, I have fear. Yes, I feel uncertainty as well. But I am hopeful that people are being awakened by the madness of the politics.”

GOP candidates lean on Trump, Dems avoid Biden

From left are President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump’s involvement in Arizona politics was a boon to Republicans in the primaries, but Democrats speculate that it will harm the GOP in the upcoming general election.

In the time leading up to the primary election, Trump-endorsed candidates used the former president as a launchpad for funding and recognition. Democrats are not receiving endorsements from President Joe Biden or Democratic former President Barack Obama, but Democratic consultants say that’s the better strategy.

Trump makes frequent trips to Arizona and is possibly on the campaign trail himself. He makes appearances with his endorsees and rakes in contributions from supporters.

Rodd McLeod, a Democratic consultant, said. “Donald Trump is basically trying to help Donald Trump. Yeah. I mean, he goes out and does these events because he raises a lot of money and the candidates aren’t necessarily getting help.”

The “MAGA” strategy of deifying Trump was a success in the primaries, which put almost all of the Trump slate ahead of the other Republicans. But candidates need to impress a different population to win the general.

Democratic consultant Matt Grodsky said. “Primaries are a different game. You’re appealing to your base, especially as the right’s concerned.”

Grodsky explained that because Republicans have better voter registration they can afford to “play with fire” in the primaries, but Democrats would be alienating necessary votes by playing the same game. “They’re not doing big rallies, because all that’s going to do is fire up the Democratic base that’s already with these candidates. Right now, we’re trying to go get that middle of the road voter.”

McLeod said, “I don’t think a Bernie Sanders endorsement is extremely helpful in a general election in Arizona, right? But that doesn’t mean it would be a bad thing to have in a primary when you’re trying to distinguish yourself and stand out.”

Trump endorsees preached a far-right message before the primaries. One candidate called abortion a “demonic” sacrifice although most Arizonans want abortion rights. Universally, Trump’s candidates spread misinformation about election fraud although most Arizonans also don’t believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.

McLeod noted that when Trump himself scared moderates away with extreme rhetoric, he lost Arizona.

Grodsky said, “I prefer the Republicans to continue to make that mistake. Because theoretically, their logic makes sense based on the math, but it doesn’t make sense based on the rhetoric. Their message does not resonate with the middle.”

Wary of that outcome, after winning the primaries, some of Trump’s candidates are trying to pivot to a more moderate and accessible stance, either refusing to address their past comments or claiming their views have changed.

Unlike Trump, Biden, Obama and former Republican President George Bush haven’t endorsed anyone in years. Obama did make some endorsements in 2020, but only Trump is regularly endorsing candidates and paying visits to Arizona. Biden is avoiding that now, which Democrat consultant McLeod said is standard practice during the midterms.

McLeod cautioned that Trump’s appearances do not necessarily indicate widespread support. “Republican members of Congress are not excited about having him come to their district unless it’s like, you know, Andy Biggs,” he said.

McLeod said Biden’s involvement would not be “a great play” with the economy doing poorly. McLeod noted that Obama and Trump were unpopular two years into their terms as well.

McLeod compared Trump’s preferred gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Republican leadership with current Gov. Doug Ducey who was much more successful at collecting moderate votes. “Ducey won four years ago by like 14 points,” McLeod said. “So, you know, I don’t think it’s necessarily a great situation they’ve created for themselves.”

“She’s scared away a lot of voters and there’s a lot of voters who voted for Karrin Taylor Robson and who would not be voting for her,” McLeod said of Lake.

It’s not yet clear whether the Democrat’s old strategy will work. They weren’t successful in the past three gubernatorial elections, and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Katie Hobbs, the current secretary of state, is by no means expected to win in a landslide victory.

Democrat consultants say that the party’s national groups are supporting Arizona candidates, but they’re doing it by pouring money into Hobbs’ campaign and against Lake’s; not through rallies and endorsements.

Grodsky said, “I think the general consensus is, you know, we’re not going to win this thing with Democratic surrogates, right, you’re going to win it by going up the middle. To go up the middle and to communicate to the middle you need money for paid communications. So, I think that’s the first and most important strategy I do think in terms of raising more money.”

But Democrats aren’t the only ones spending money.

Both sides are giving their all. The Republican Governors Association alone is spending millions against Hobbs.

Candidates on both sides are enjoying the endorsements of a handful of national players like Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who recently endorsed Lake and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. who is supporting Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., in his re-election bid. However, former presidents apart from Trump are staying out of the fray.

Obama hasn’t endorsed anyone since 2020. Biden hasn’t endorsed anyone since Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., in 2018.



Judge keeps order in place for Ward’s phone records

Kelli Ward at a campaign rally in August 2018. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

A federal judge won’t delay her order giving the phone records of the chair of the Arizona Republican Party to the Jan. 6 committee.

Judge Diane Humetewa said Friday that Kelli Ward failed to show there would be “irreparable harm” from the release of the information about who was calling and texting her, and who she was calling and texting. And the judge, who last month ordered disclosure, rejected claims that release of the information would “chill” the interest of party faithful in communicating with her.

But Humetewa, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, said there’s an even more basic reason she wants the records turned over – and soon.

Diane Humetewa

The judge pointed out that Ward wanted her to stay her order while she seeks review of the decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. That court has set a briefing schedule which runs into January.

Only thing is, the panel charged with investigating the events in and around the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol is authorized only through the end of the current congressional session. That occurs Jan. 3.

“An injunction would thus make it impossible for the Select Committee to obtain the subpoenaed records,” Humetewa wrote. And the judge said that tips the legal balance in favor of Congress – and against Ward.

“There is a strong public interest in Congress carrying out its lawful investigations,” Humetewa wrote. “The public interest is heightened when, as here, the legislature is proceeding with urgency to prevent violent attacks on the federal government and disruptions to the peaceful transfer of power.”

Attorney Alexander Kolodin who represents Ward said he cannot comment on what will be the next legal move. But he said if the issue is timing, he would consider an expedited briefing schedule to ensure the case got before the appellate judges before the congressional session ends.

And Kolodin said the fact remains that the new Congress could continue the committee if it wanted.

The realistic possibility of that happening, though, is minimal given the chances Republicans will take over the House.

Panel members want T-Mobile to turn over her phone records from November 2020 through January 2021.

That includes the period where Ward prepared a slate of electors, herself included, who were pledged to vote for Donald Trump even though Joe Biden won the popular vote in Arizona and the state’s 11 electoral votes. Documents backing that up were sent to Washington.

Douglas Letter, legal counsel to the House, said the committee, studying the events leading up to the Jan. 6 riot, needs to know how Ward’s activities played into all that. That would include with whom she was in contact at the time.

“Dr. Kelli Ward participated in multiple aspects of these attempts to interfere with the electoral count in Jan. 6,” he told the court. “She told officials in Maricopa County to stop counting ballots and promoted inaccurate allegations of election interference by Dominion Voting Systems.”

In sending the set of unauthorized set of electoral votes to Congress, Letter said Ward “mischaracterized (them) as representing the legal votes of Arizona.”

And that’s not all.

“While Congress was recessed due to the mob’s violence and attack on the Capitol, Dr. Ward continued to advocate for overturning the results of the election,” Letter said, citing a Jan. 6 Twitter post. And even after the riot and congressional certification of Biden’s win, he said, Ward continued to maintain that the slate of fake electors contained “the rightful and true presidential electors for 2020.”

The subpoena seeks only the phone numbers of those who were in contact with Ward, not the actual content of the texts or conversations. Despite that, Ward argued that just the disclosure of her political contacts will “chill” the interest of members of the party in communicating with her.

Humetewa called that not just “speculative” but also “dubious,” particularly in light of what Ward already had made public about her activities.

“Ms. Ward had written a book about how she participated in sending an alternate slate of electors to Washington,” the judge noted, citing “Justified: The Story of America’s Audit,” about not just the Senate review of the 2020 vote in Maricopa County but also other legal developments.

“You will have the opportunity to see many of Kelli’s internal and external communications,” according to promotional material for the book.

And Humetewa said Ward filmed videos of the activities around this alternate slate and posted them to YouTube.

“These activities belie Ms. Ward’s concern that her communications with her constituents or colleagues will be chilled by T-Mobile’s possible disclosure of a record showing Ms. Ward called or received calls from persons during this time,” the judge wrote.

An attorney from the committee revealed at an earlier hearing that Ward invoked her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when she was questioned by the panel’s staff. The lawyer did not say when that interview took place.


Obama rally speakers bash ‘dangerous’ GOP ticket, limit praise of Hobbs

Former President Barack Obama speaks at a Democratic rally in Phoenix, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Alberto Mariani)

Former President Barack Obama made his first appearance in Arizona this election cycle on Wednesday to rally support for the Democratic ticket and asked voters from all parties to reject Trump endorsees. 

With only six days to go before voting ends, Obama other speakers stressed that Trump-endorsed candidates are extreme and dangerous to democracy. 

“Kari Lake actually interviewed me,” Obama said, referring to the GOP gubernatorial candidate’s time as a newscaster. “At the time I don’t remember thinking she was the kind of person who would push debunked Covid remedies. … I guess that stuff came later because she found it convenient.” 

Obama, who spoke for an hour, repeatedly criticized the Trump slate, mentioned Biden only once, and took time to vocalize his support for each statewide Democrat candidate.  

“Katie, she may not be flashy … but she’s serious about her work,” he said of Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. 

In recent weeks, polls for the governor’s race show Lake in a dead heat with Hobbs, or in some cases, up by several points. 

Obama reminisced about his first presidential campaign, a time when he said it was easier to have a discourse with people in different parties. After a screaming protestor interrupted Obama’s speech and was dragged out, he spoke about the hateful discourse and lack of civility he believes is growing. He spoke about the recent attack on Paul Pelosi and warned against the danger of officials who “continue to promote over-the-top rhetoric, or at least ignore it, or make light out of it.” 

In the time when he was first running, Obama said that no one would accept candidates like Lake and U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters, who he accused of lying to people.  

He called them “Politicians who seem to be willing to do or say anything to be able to gain power.” 

 He said that in today’s Republican party, the focus seems to be on “owning the libs” and getting Trump’s approval. 

While Lake made her endorsement by former President Donald Trump the center of her campaign, Democrats have largely kept Obama and President Joe Biden out of their campaigns. 

The Democrats chose a small venue, the gymnasium of Cesar Chavez High School in Phoenix. The gym’s capacity is only 1,600 and was filled to more than 1,800 with around 600 people outside unable to squeeze in. 

The speakers began around 6:30 p.m. Obama spoke more about Sen. Mark Kelly than any other candidates but mentioned most of the Democrats running for statewide office. After his speech, Obama did not take questions from the press. 

Other Democrat speakers included state party chair Raquel Terán, Secretary of State candidate Adrian Fontes, Attorney General candidate Kris Mayes, Kelly, former Rep. Gabby Giffords, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy, Rep. Ruben Gallego and Hobbs. Absent from the rally and from the entire Hobbs campaign was Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-AZ.  

“It’s a choice between sanity and chaos,” Hobbs said, repeating a tagline that her campaign has used several times. “I’ve never lost an election and I don’t intend to start now.” 

Every candidate brought up abortion and their support for abortion rights. Election denialism was another star talking point. 

“He [Masters] wants a national abortion ban that is so strict that even when a woman is raped, she will not be able to make this decision themselves. Blake Masters wants to make this decision for Arizona women,” Kelly said, riling up the audience. 

Republican Mesa Mayor John Giles also spoke in favor of the Democratic candidates and against Lake.  

“She’ll spend more time travelling to Mar-a-Lago than to Mesa,” he said of Lake. He didn’t mention Hobbs but did talk up Kelly. “I hope someday I can cheer for Republican candidates again, but not these ones,” Giles said. 

Lake held a competing tele-rally with Trump and Masters at the same time Obama spoke. Trump has endorsed several candidates for the last few years at all levels. 

Obama lost Arizona in both of his Presidential campaigns, but Democrats hope that he can appeal to the moderates and independents Hobbs needs to push her over the edge. 

National Democrats are involved in Arizona’s tight races, but mainly show their support with money. Democratic candidates are supported by millions of dollars from national groups, and Republicans are being targeted by the same actors. 

Biden hasn’t endorsed any Arizona candidates since Sinema in 2018. Hobbs did not answer questions from the Arizona Capitol Times about why Sinema is not more involved with her campaign but said that Sinema is voting for Hobbs. Casting a ballot is below the minimum in such a tight race where Hobbs needs all the support she can get. 

Democratic consultants Rodd McLeod and Matt Grodsky said that it’s normal for a president to stay out of the election fray in a midyear election. Biden is bashed by Republicans for inflation that is hitting Arizona particularly hard. Phoenix inflation was up to 13% as of September, meaning Biden’s absence from Arizona is not a hindrance, and may be a necessity. Biden made no endorsements of Arizona candidates this year. 

Obama made a handful of endorsements in 2020, but he hasn’t been very vocal in his support of 2022 Democratic candidates until now.  

“Most GOP politicians they’re not even pretending that the rules apply to them. They seem to be willing to just make stuff up,” Obama said. He asked whether these issues don’t override party labels. “To people who aren’t in this auditorium: why would you vote for somebody who you know is not telling the truth?” 



Regent says colleagues wrong to maintain in-state tuition rate for ‘Dreamers’

Laura Reyes said she has a personal reason for hoping DACA is upheld - it would allow her to pay in-state tuition in college - as well as helping “my brother, my sister and a lot of people.” (Photo by Madison Alder/Cronkite News)
In this 2016 photo, Laura Reyes said she has a personal reason for hoping DACA is upheld – it would allow her to pay in-state tuition in college – as well as helping “my brother, my sister and a lot of people.” (Photo by Madison Alder/Cronkite News)

A five-year veteran of the Arizona Board of Regents said Friday his colleagues are wrong to keep allowing “Dreamers” to pay the same in-state tuition at state universities as legal Arizona residents.

Jay Heiler (File photo)
Jay Heiler

Regent Jay Heiler said his colleagues are acting in good faith in deciding to keep the tuition policy in place for now, and he acknowledged that a June ruling by the state Court of Appeals voiding a similar policy by the Maricopa County Community College District is being appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court.

But Heiler is distancing himself from a letter sent Thursday to the Attorney General’s Office by board President Eileen Klein on behalf of the other regents. Klein said the tuition policy for those in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is justified and will remain. She also urged the attorney general not to sue the board but instead wait for a final ruling in the Maricopa case.

Put simply, Heiler, who is an attorney, said he believes the regents’ policy clearly violates a 2006 voter-approved law, which prohibits the use of tax dollars to subsidize the tuition of students not in this country legally.

“Regardless of whether one agrees with the relevant law (which was enacted at the ballot by a large majority of Arizona voters), it could scarcely be more clear that the board’s presently established tuition rate violates it,” Heiler wrote in a letter Friday to Attorney General Mark Brnovich obtained by Capitol Media Services. And he said that has now been pointed up by the appellate court ruling.

“The only lawful course and the only solid ground on which a fiduciary board can stand is to comply with the law and set a tuition rate which does not amount to a ‘subsidy,’” he wrote.

Heiler said there is a simple – and he believes legal – solution: Charge DACA recipients a non-subsidized rate, something that covers the actual costs of their education but far less than full out-of-state tuition.

In fact, the regents already have a policy allowing those who graduate from an Arizona high school but don’t meet residency requirements to pay 150 percent of in-state tuition.

In this Feb. 10, 2011 file photo, protesters gather around former state senator Russell Pearce, author of SB 1070. The ACLU acquired thousands of Pearce e-mails through a public records request and says they prove the controversial anti-immigration law was racially motivated. (Matt York/Associated Press)
In this Feb. 10, 2011 file photo, protesters gather around former state senator Russell Pearce, author of SB1070. (Matt York/Associated Press)

But former state Senate President Russell Pearce, who is threatening his own lawsuit against the regents over their current policy, said he believes even that would be illegal. And Pearce told Capitol Media Services said he may sue anyway even if the regents enact that 150 percent fallback position if the in-state tuition policy is ultimately ruled illegal by the Supreme Court.

The regents agreed to let DACA recipients pay in-state tuition in 2015 after Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Arthur Anderson upheld a similar policy at the Maricopa colleges in a lawsuit brought by the Attorney General’s Office.

In June, however, a three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals concluded unanimously that the policy violates Proposition 300, a 2006 ballot measure approved by voters on a 2-1 margin. It says anyone “without lawful immigration status” is not entitled to any tuition waiver, financial aid or any other financial assistance “that is subsidized or paid in whole or in part with state monies.”

The judges acknowledged that DACA, enacted by the Obama administration in 2010, does allow those who arrived in this country illegally as children to remain and work without fear of deportation. But they said that does not legalize their presence in the country.

Klein wants Brnovich to await the Supreme Court review before bringing a new lawsuit to void their tuition policy.

But not Heiler.

“My main concern is that, no matter how you slice it, we’ve positioned ourselves in contravention of the law,” he told Capitol Media Services.

In her letter Thursday, Klein said there are grounds the regents agreed to let DACA recipients pay in-state tuition.

Eileen Klein
Eileen Klein

“Our state’s economic competitiveness depends upon the education of all qualified students,” Klein wrote. “That is why access, affordability and student success are priorities of the board.”

Heiler said that’s missing the point.

“We may have good reasons for wanting to do that,” he said. “But I’m not sure we have the liberty to do that.”

That’s also Pearce’s assessment.

“They absolutely broke the law and they need to be held liable for it,” he said. Nor is Pearce persuaded that the regents are entitled to act after Anderson, the judge, upheld the similar Maricopa colleges policy.

Pearce said it was an “illegal court ruling,” calling Anderson “a judge who took advantage of his position.”

That still leaves the question of what happens to DACA recipients if the Supreme Court says it’s illegal to let them pay the same in-state tuition as legal Arizona residents. Heiler is pushing for that 150 percent figure.

“I do believe that there’s a very strong argument to be made that a tuition rate, which does not amount to a subsidy complies with state law,” he said.

But Pearce disagreed that there is such a thing as a non-subsidized tuition.

“They’ll have to make up numbers to do it,” he said, maintaining that DACA itself is contrary to federal law, an issue that has yet to be formally settled by federal courts.

Heiler said the Court of Appeals concluded that DACA recipients lack “lawful immigration status.” But there are federal court rulings that say the Obama-enacted policy gives them “lawful presence,” something Heiler said “may well give the board the legal authority to charge them a rate higher than in-state tuition but less than what out-of-state students pay.”

Shawnna Bolick: A 2008 political awakening

Shawnna Bolick
Shawnna Bolick

Rep. Shawnna Bolick could have been a journalist. Or a lawyer. Or a doctor. Instead, she chose to pursue a career in politics, but she’s not the only one in her family in Arizona government.

There’s a Bolick in all three branches, a fact House Speaker Rusty Bowers told Bolick is “scary.” The Phoenix Republican is in the Legislature, her husband, Justice Clint Bolick, is on the Supreme Court, and their son, Ryne, is the current vice president of the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family.

Bolick said growing up she was the black sheep of her family. She was the only registered Republican of her Roman Catholic family in Pennsylvania who did not talk politics or religion in the household, something that remains true today, but maybe not by choice.

She’s also an avid traveler and a published author, but nothing competes with the challenges of politics.

You had two unsuccessful runs for the Lege, but got elected on your third try. What was different that time around?

I didn’t do much different. I focused on doors and meeting people. I set it straight for my kids that persistence pays off and if you want something you keep working for it. I got kicked twice (lost by 654 votes in the 2010 primary, and 2,585 votes in the 2014 election) and I think I won by 3,000 votes this last time. (Actual number is 1,869). I think I earned my way here and worked hard. Focused on precincts and looked at old data

What were your expectations going into your first legislative session?

With the numbers we have you couldn’t really move the needle too far on anything so I didn’t expect us to do a whole heck of a lot. We are kind of on auto pilot for the next year as a Republican.

You’ve worked for Rick Santorum and Rick Perry and have met countless other politicians, including George W. Bush. Are there any politicians that you admire?

Not one really stuck out, but I love the fact that [Rudy] Giuliani fought for school choice in New York. It’s the biggest public school system and he fought for it. I don’t agree with him on a lot of other issues, but he was a great mayor; a strong leader. I worked with two politicians who are both named Rick; I don’t know what that says about me.

Did you ever interact with W?

I met him on Election Night. I have a picture of myself, my husband and him in March of 2001 over in the old executive office building. And I had a foot surgery the day before so there’s a picture of me with a cast on … I never really interacted with him. We would chit chat, and Election Night was just celebratory.

Do you remember the exact moment where you knew you wanted to pursue a career in politics?

Well, I didn’t like [President Barack] Obama’s policies. And that’s actually when I started to get engaged. My kids were born in 2002 and 2004 and I needed to take some time away to focus on family after my kids were born. I was a stay-at-home mom, but I also had a job. I stayed up late doing research for groups I worked for. I didn’t want to turn my mind off because that would not be the best solution for myself or my kids. In 2008, watching that election I definitely got more lit up about getting involved again and now, here I am. I worked extremely hard to get here and last year on the campaign trail I probably personally went to about 18,000 houses myself, so I’m working very hard already. LD20 is purple at this point, and is trying to swing outside of the Republican realm. When it was drawn it was pretty red. Arizona is a gem and I don’t want to see it turn too far to the middle – or purple.

What are the challenges of you being in the Legislature and your husband, Justice Clint Bolick, being on the Supreme Court?

We don’t talk much, let’s just say that. Our schedules don’t match up. I can’t even ask him for advice, which stinks because some issues might go to him … I think I did pretty good this session on my own without having a pro bono attorney help me.

Do either of your kids want to get into politics?

We really hope [our son] doesn’t, but he is a great debater. He’s got great logic and facts behind him whenever he debates an issue. He’s a lot like I was as a teenager. We went to see U2 at the Rose Bowl last year, and he saw some lady with a big Bernie Sanders and Socialism sign and he went over to have a conversation and asked if she truly knew what socialism was and gave her some examples on what could happen and explained what the Libertarian Party was, so it was kind of funny. I like to engage my kids as much as possible. My daughter [Kali] is in ninth grade now, so she’s just starting to think about different issues and where she stands. Her views will evolve like my son’s have. I just hope my son stays on the engineering track; and my daughter wants to go to medical school. We are hoping they both stay local and at least one goes to ASU’s Barrett School.

So you are also a published author.

Oh yeah, I wrote a book in 2004. It took me a couple of years to write it. …I traveled all over Arizona with my kids. …And before my son was born, I started researching places I would want to go with him anything from indoor mall play areas to a museum. It was a very research, detail-oriented project and I didn’t realize I was doing a book when I started. I was creating a binder of things to do and had it organized for around the state. It was published in 2004, and I did a small book tour.

Which was more challenging – writing a book or working in politics?

Definitely being in politics. It’s more time consuming.

This Republican hopes Dems bring debate circus to town


Arizona Democrats are reportedly working behind the scenes to bring their party’s traveling presidential circus to the Grand Canyon State.

I, for one, hope they succeed. As fun as it’s been to see 10, 12, or even 20 extremist liberals try to outdo each other’s incoherent pandering and resentment mongering on national TV, there’s a certain something about having the big top come to your own backyard. Besides, I’m eager to see how these candidates will tailor their act to a Southwestern audience.

Democrats, mostly without evidence, believe the best way to attract Hispanic American votes, for instance, is to campaign on effectively ending immigration enforcement. In successive debates, they’ve driven this message home in shockingly candid terms.

Monica Yelin
Monica Yelin

Early on, nearly every Democratic candidate explicitly endorsed “decriminalizing” illegal entry into the United States. While the proponents of this policy scrambled to claim that this doesn’t mean “open borders,” that’s exactly what it is; the distinction is purely semantic. Barack Obama’s own Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, was honest enough to admit that decriminalization is “tantamount to declaring publicly that we have open borders.”

Even the few debaters who fell short of endorsing open borders — Joe Biden the only leading candidate among them — raised their hands to say American taxpayers should provide free healthcare for illegal immigrants. Biden later walked that back, chalking it up to confusion about the question, but the fact that his rivals remain firmly committed to such an obviously unpopular policy shows just how deep this dogmatism runs in the Democratic Party.

The strategy is fundamentally misguided as these policies are broadly unpopular. One poll found that even among non-white voters, only 28 percent support decriminalizing illegal border crossings. The impetus for taking these positions comes not from the Hispanic American community, but from Democratic Party activists.

We could see that when Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, who has made open borders a central plank of his campaign, last visited Arizona. When a woman at his rally asked, very reasonably, if these policies were a slap in the face to legal immigrants, he launched into a tirade and equated the question to supporting dead children and separated families.

If Arizona Democrats do convince their national Party bosses to hold the December or January debate in the Phoenix area, however, immigration extremism might not even be the most outrageous thing we hear from the candidates. Just consider the CNN-hosted LGBTQ Town Hall that many of the same candidates attended earlier this month, which featured a veritable smorgasbord of radicalism.

In between protesters rushing the microphone to claim that mispronouncing their names was “violence,” multiple parents parading their nine-year-old transgender kids, and candidates patronizingly informing viewers of their “preferred pronouns,” the 2020 Democrats let loose some truly insane policy proposals.

Beto set a high bar by threatening to revoke the non-profit status of churches and religious institutions that oppose same-sex marriage. He would treat every Catholic church, Orthodox Jewish synagogue, traditional protestant congregation, and private Christian university in America like for-profit corporations if they don’t abandon their religious beliefs in favor of his social agenda.

Senator Elizabeth Warren endorsed the social-engineering strategy of teaching kindergarteners about “gender fluidity,” and for good measure, threw in the idea of taxpayer-funded gender reassignment surgery for prisoners.

Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, interestingly, chose not to revisit their past support for legalizing prostitution, while supposed front-runner Joe Biden could only muster some confused word salad about “gay bath houses” in San Francisco and “round-the-clock sex.”

What are the Democrats hoping to accomplish with this nonsense? Open borders and identitarian radicalism aren’t going to help workers grow their 401(k)s, make American businesses more competitive, or provide our children with a better education. The Democrats are just making hollow promises that appeal to their radical base but won’t do anything to make life better for ordinary Americans.

As that debacle on CNN proves, venue matters in these types of campaign events. If the Democrat candidates do find themselves on a debate stage in Arizona a few months from now, I look forward to watching them try to adapt their far-left rhetoric and policy agendas for a Southwestern audience. I wish them luck. They’ll need it.

Monica Yelin is a Member-at-Large of the Maricopa County GOP, Republican National Hispanic Assembly Western Regional Director and sits on the national “Latinos for Trump” coalition.